BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
THE Scientific and Industrial Research Development Centre (Sirdc) says it will launch five new maize seed varieties under its ambitious scheme to counter climate-induced food security threats in Zimbabwe.
In an interview with NewsDay Business last week, Sirdc chief executive officer Robson Mafoti said the new varieties were his organisation’s response to uncertainties brought about by drought, which have made it imperative for scientists to explore ways of improving household food security.
He said apart from Zimbabwe, results of the agency’s work would be felt across southern Africa.
“The centre has been continuously researching and developing climate-smart maize seed under the Sirdamaize brand,” Mafoti said.
“These are 115, 117, 119, 713 and 101 and they will be launched soon. The varieties are high yielding, drought tolerant and well adaptable to Zimbabwe agro-ecologies. In addition, the varieties are tolerant to a wide range of diseases and have low nitrogen requirements,” he added.
“The scope of our agro research and development extends to traditional grains, indigenous legumes, cassava, sweet potato, virus-free Irish potato seed and rice varieties. As released varieties reach farmers, agricultural productivity and returns on farms will substantially improve. Such improvements boost national food security and economic development,” he said.
The Sirdc boss said cumulative seed supply by the agency to marginal areas exceeded 5 000 tonnes.
“Zimbabwe Technological Solutions, a company that is wholly owned by Sirdc is producing maize seed, branded Sirdamaize 113. The seed has been on the market since the 2012/13 farming season. Cumulative seed supply to marginal rainfall areas has exceeded 5 000 tonnes enhancing food security on over 200 000 hectares. Projected grain output would thus exceed one million tonnes. Our production target for the 2021/22 farming season is over 1 500 tonnes. This will cover over 60 000ha in one season and will produce over 300 000 tonnes of grain to feed families and also support the Zimbabwe agro-processing industry,” Mafoti said.
However, he disclosed that there was need for more funding to replace antiquated equipment and enhance research output.
“Sirdc, like all other parastatals, will operate and achieve more with increased funding. The funding will particularly address the need for modern, well-equipped and up-to-date laboratories. Funding is also required to commercialise research output leading to enhanced job creation, value-addition and increased injections into the fiscus through taxes. Skills retention is very important and more funding is needed to improve remuneration packages and stem brain drain,” Mafoti added.
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